The New York Giants are sounding plenty confident these days, and for good reason.

Landon Collins “highly doubts” the Dallas Cowboys can repeat as division champs over New York, while Jason Pierre-Paul sees his team taking down everyone on its schedule.

After jumping from a 6-10 record to an 11-5 season between 2015 and 2016, the Giants believe they can make another leap in 2017. Here are five reasons why they might be right:

Elite defense

From front to back, the Giants have one of the best defenses in the NFL – particularly in the front and the back.

New York’s linebacking corps is lacking star playmakers, but with all the talent on the defensive line and in the secondary, those second-level defenders just need to do their jobs.

Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eli Apple, and Andrew Adams are perhaps the best five-man secondary unit in the league – at least according to Pro Football Focus. Their second season together should result in even better production.

Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison, and Olivier Vernon formed one of the best run-stuffing units in 2016, while notching quite a few sacks. They’ve replaced Johnathan Hankins with second-rounder Dalvin Tomlinson, but, like the secondary, another season together for the big three linemen should only improve their dominance.

Revamped receiver corps

The Giants’ passing game will be fun to watch in 2017.

Odell Beckham Jr. continues to improve every season (he’s only entering his fourth year, too, remember), while Brandon Marshall will no longer be the primary focus of opposing defenses, leaving plenty of space for Sterling Shepard, the second-leading rookie receiver in 2016.

The Giants also drafted speedy tight end Evan Engram, who may take time to adjust to the pro-style attack, but will be a matchup nightmare once he figures it out.

Marshall’s arrival will also create an advantage over any team that doesn’t have a complete secondary.

Eli’s still Eli

Eli Manning’s numbers have never been staggeringly impressive from a year-to-year point of view, but he’s within reach of the sixth-most all-time passing yards this season.

His production dipped last year, but the last time his numbers dropped in the same capacity, the veteran responded with two career seasons.

Season Yards TDs INTs
2012 3948 26 15
2013 3818 18 27
2014 4410 30 14
2015 4432 35 14
2016 4027 26 16

This is the best receiver corps Manning has had, coming to him as his window for another championship closes. While his facial expression will remain the same, his motivation should rise to a new level.

Sneaky schedule

The Giants will need to face the Cowboys twice this season, but they get the advantage of playing a late-season matchup at home in December.

Outside their division, the Packers and Seahawks pose the greatest threats in the NFC, but Green Bay isn’t on the Giants’ 2017 schedule, and Seattle will have to come across the country in Week 7 to play in New York.

The Giants won’t play at home in consecutive weeks until Week 14-15, but that also means New York gets to finish the season playing three of four games at MetLife. With all three of those games being against divisional opponents, the Giants are set up to either make up ground or establish a firm lead in the NFC East race at a crucial time.

Confidence over contenders

The Giants are a team on the rise, but have the veteran experience to know how to take the next step.

They have a level of excitement similar to the Seahawks in 2012, with a much more veteran-heavy corps. And unlike the Seahawks, the Giants haven’t been running the same scheme for more than five years with an extra 12 games of wear and tear on their bodies. Seattle has been losing pieces ever since their Super Bowl XLVIII win, while New York has been building.

As mentioned before, the Packers aren’t on the Giants’ schedule this season, but apart from quarterback and offensive line, Big Blue takes the edge in every position group on paper.

The Giants should own the Cowboys in terms of mental warfare after handing them two of their three regular-season losses last year. While the Giants have strengthened the passing game, Dallas’ defense lost several key players this offseason.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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